Days of Champions long gone
Unsold, former fun park languishes from disuse, vandalism

       Champions Golf & Games has been closed for three years now, and there is no taker in sight for the 26-acre former fun park at Vondelpark Drive and Chestnut Street.
       In the meantime, despite expressed good intentions by land owner Denise Overhardt of Florida, the site is showing signs of neglect - including the iron perimeter fence coming apart in places and the partial destruction of the huge driving range screen next to properties along its east side. Additionally, residents of the adjacent Holland Park neighborhood have reported seeing broken windows in the buildings and high, unmowed grass (a possible fire hazard) in warmer months. As part of a major vandalism incident last summer, all the copper from the electrical service was stolen.
       Two phone messages left for Overhardt in the past two days went unreturned. In a letter last summer, which was copied to the Holland Park Community Association, she wrote that she was “saddened” by what had happened, and “we have been continually going to great measures and ongoing costs to curb the problem.”
       It is not known who the property management company is, but Colorado Springs Police Officer Dave Husted of the Falcon substation said that if the department's Code Enforcement officer finds violations, the property owner will be cited, not the company.
       The property is being offered for $4.7 million, according to the website for the Legend Retail Group in Denver, which represents Overhardt. The County Assessor's Office shows its market value as $2.7 million, including the land and improvements (although it's not quite $875,000 for the land alone).
       Declining to comment for the record was Overhardt's agent with Legend. However, in a phone conversation with the Westside Pioneer - before the agent said he knew he was talking to a reporter (although the paper had talked to him on several occasions over the past half-year and identified itself each time) - the agent had explained that five “national, well-established companies” have taken the property under contract at different times over the three-year span and then backed out. In so doing, he said these companies had relayed two main concerns. One was about traffic, another about utility connections.
       A follow-up by the Pioneer with James Mayerl of City Planning confirmed that traffic is an issue; however, Dave Grossman of Springs Utilities said no service upgrades are needed and the site is adequately supplied, even for highly intensive developments such as big-box retail.
       Mayerl said the main traffic issue is the old but heavily used Fillmore/I-25 interchange. A plan for its replacement has been approved at the federal level, and it would have been part of the recent COSMIX project had there been enough money. The latest regional transportation priority list now shows its construction not occurring until 2021 at the soonest (see transportation story, Page 5). However, with ongoing development already adding to traffic west of the interstate - including the Colorado Springs Health Partners and Sunrise Company projects - a new interchange “may be needed fairly soon,” Mayerl said.
       In the meantime, if a major development went in at the former Champions site beforehand, it “could make traffic miserable” for the neighborhood, he said.
       He described a balancing act for the city: “We want to encourage development but not to degrade the Holland Park quality of life… Something would have to be negotiated. I'm not saying everyone leaves happy. But we have to get some things for the public benefit.”
       In its roughly 10-year heyday, Champions offered miniature golf courses, batting cages, a golf driving range, golf clubhouse and an indoor arcade.
       Cynthia McGrath, a Holland Park Community Association officer, said members keep an eye on the site as best they can, but residents are worried about problems if the large property remains vacant indefinitely.
       Having moved to the area not long before the fun park closed, she is sorry it's not there anymore to take her kids to. “It's trash up there now,” she said. “It's really sad.”

Westside Pioneer article